Bison 68 South Dakota State 57
Despite winning the last two Summit League Championships, North Dakota State was not the favorite to win the league this season. That honor, almost prohibitively was given to South Dakota State. The Jacks didn't disappoint in non-conference play, knocking off TCU, Illinois State and Minnesota.
Conference play didn't start out as well for SDSU, despite some of their non-conference success coming without star guard George Marshall the Jacks didn't respond as well to losing guard Jake Bittle. South Dakota State dropped games to Weber State and IUPUI after losing Bittle, and needed a come from behind effort to put Western Illinois away at Frost Arena.
NDSU came into the game at 2-2, having just evened their conference record with a win over South Dakota. Saturday's game was quite the production, featuring 4200+ fans in the seats and the Bison football team being honored at halftime. Bison Jacks was a big time mid-major matchup, and boy did it start out ugly.
The score was 9 to 6 in favor of North Dakota State at the under-12 media timeout. Shooting numbers for the first half were unimpressive at best. The Bison and Jacks combined to shoot less than 31% from the field in the first half. The Bison used a balanced scoring attack and a 23-15 rebounding advantage to build a 32-17 halftime lead.
Unlike Wednesday night's game against South Dakota, the Bison would not relinquish their lead. SDSU forward Reed Tellingheusen hit a three to pull the Jackrabbits within eight points, but that was as close as they would pull. NDSU would seal the game with some free throws and scintillating dunk by junior big man Dexter Werner. The victory marked the 10th win in the last 11 tries in Fargo for the Bison.
The Bison were fantastic on defense, limiting South Dakota State to less than 29% shooting. NDSU limited South Dakota State's star guards Deondre Parks and George Marshall to eight of 29 shooting.
Paul Miller again led the Bison with 17 points on five of 13 shooting. Miller was 4-8 from three point land and is now shooting better than 50% from beyond the arc in conference play. Junior wing Kory Brown turned in his second exceptional performance in as many games. Brown had 14 points six rebounds and seven assists. NDSU's bench outscored SDSU's bench 17-2, led by Werner's seven point, eight rebound performance.
The win moved the Bison above the .500 mark in Summit League play.
What's going to happen?
Bison at Fort Wayne, 6:00 pm on Thursday, January 21
Surprisingly enough, Fort Wayne comes into Thursday's game against the Bison tied for the lead in the Summit League. The Mastodons are 4-1 in league play, led by senior guard Max Landis. Landis is coming off of a 37 point performance in an overtime win at Omaha, a career high. The Indianapolis native is averaging 16.5 points per game.
Fort Wayne's 4-1 conference record is even more impressive when you consider that they've spent three of their first five games on the road. Winning on the road is difficult in the Summit League, and the 'Dons have started 2-1. Their only loss is to league favorite South Dakota State on the road.
Landis teams with junior guard Mo Evans to make up the second straight rock solid backcourt that NDSU has faced. Bison guards Khy Kabellis, Paul Miller and wing Kory Brown will have their work cut out for them. Fortunately for the Bison, the 'Dons struggle to score inside, with four of their top 5 scorers beings 6'4" or shorter. NDSU likes to be able to switch 1-4 on defense, and they'll be able to do that all night.
The Bison offense has a chance to really get going against Fort Wayne. IPFW has allowed 96.5 points per game over their last two contests, and they're coming off of an overtime game. Look for the Bison to try and get scorers that aren't Paul Miller going. AJ Jacobson has yet to really get it going in conference play, and he's a player capable of a 25 point outing at any time. The Bison might also try and use Dexter Werner to do damage inside against Fort Wayne's thin interior.
Prediction: Bison 74 IPFW 77
Bison at Western Illinois, 2:00 pm on Saturday, January 23 on ESPN3
Western is in almost the exact opposite position as Fort Wayne. The Leathernecks began their season with perhaps the biggest non-conference win for the Summit League. WIU beat Wisconsin in Madison when the Badgers were fresh off of a national title game appearance. It was the biggest victory in program history.
Things have not gone well for the Leathernecks since. WIU is 7-10 on the season and have not won a conference game. They are currently on an eight game losing streak, but they do not have a weekday game. Western will go into Saturday's game against NDSU on a full week's rest.
WIU is led on offense by guards Garret Covington and JC Fuller. South Dakota native Tate Stensgaard leads the Leathernecks in rebounding.
Western will be in a rough spot against the Bison. NDSU could easily be jockeying for position in a league that has since passed the Leathernecks by. If WIU loses on Saturday to NDSU they might as well pack it in until the Summit League tournament. Seven conference losses, especially with four of them potentially coming at home, woudl be too much to overcome.
Prediction: Bison 69 Western Illinois 57
News and notes:
- Clements breaks into the rotation. NDSU's close call with South Dakota might have had something to do with not playing a backup guard. USD went into a press in the second half and caused North Dakota State to turn the ball over 17 times. Both wing/forward AJ Jacobson and point guard Khy Kabellis played all 40 minutes of that game. That game plan proved to be unsustainable.
Sophomore guard Malik Clements played 19.5 minutes a game for the Bison in non-conference play. His numbers dipped dramatically once the Summit League season started, seemingly due to questionable shot selection and a lack of production on ther defensive end. The common thought was that Carlin Dupree's departure from the program would force Clements into the lineup. It didn't happen. Clements did not play against South Dakota.
Clements was inserted back into the rotation against South Dakota State, and should continue to be part of NDSU's eight man group going forward. Clements pitched in five points over the course of eight minutes. If he continues to play well, especially on the defensive end, he has the chance to become a major contributor to the Bison. "You knew at some point we were going to need that eighth body, and I'm pleased with Malik for staying the course. You can't let frustration get in the way of patience. We talked to Malik about being better in practice, now that wasn't guarantee anything. When you get your opportunity to get in the game, you've gotta respond, and I think he did that very well." said coach Richman.
- Bison trying to get it going on the road. North Dakota State has been almost bulletproof at home, with a 10-1 mark over the course of the last two seasons. They are, however, one game below .500 during the same stretch on the road. Coach Richman gives BisoNation and the Scheel's center credit for a ten-point advantage, emploring his young team to be ten points bettern on the road than they are in Fargo.
"Coach Richman always says we've got to be ten points better on the road than we are at home. I think to do that we just have to "maintain". At home, sometimes we can get away with those games like against USD, when we played great for 30 minutes and not-so-great for 10. On the road you have to play great for 40 (minutes)." said sophomore guard Paul Miller.
"Winning on the road is tough, you lose your Bison fans, you're sleeping in different spots and your routine is a little off. Especially with a young group. Now those are all excuses when the ball goes up" explained Richman. "The shooting, because of sight lines might not travel, but the defense and the toughness, that needs to come with us".
- Bison guards shooting the ball better. Bison fans have a chance to be spoiled over the course of the next two and a half seasons. Miller and freshman Khy Kabellis have a chance to play together until the end of the 2017-2018 season. Both young guards are really starting to shoot the ball at an impressive rate.
Miller is shooting 50% from three in Summit League play. He is seventh in the league in conference scoring at 16.8 points per game, despite the Bison (a defensive minded team) ranking just 6th in the league in team scoring. Kabellis, who was shooting just 21% from deep in non-conference play, Kabellis is knocking down triples at 42% against Summit opponents.